Almost all of us would gladly trade our lives in to be a baseball player. They get paid loads of money to play a game everyday. They have people cheering for them, beautiful women throwing themselves at them, they live in big beautiful homes and drive nice cars.
The one baseball player one might think twice about changing places with though? Josh Hamilton. Oddly enough, he is one of the most talented and wealthiest of all the players in Major League baseball. But for some reason, he seems to have a black cloud that follows him.
Graphic via lewpblog
Hamilton was the top pick in the 1999 draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He was supposed to be one of those players that come along only once in a while. He was the Mike Trout, Bryce Harper or Kris Bryant of that era. He spent 1999 and 2000 tearing it up in the minors after getting a nearly four million-dollar signing bonus form the Rays. He was the 2000 Minor League Player of the Years in 2000 and also was selected to play in the Futures Game.
Then the curse came.
In 2001 Hamilton was injured in a car accident. This got him addicted to pain medication. That led to drug and alcohol abuse, which led to Hamilton losing time on the field and eventually his job with the Rays. Was much of this his fault? Perhaps. Some people seem to be more susceptible to addiction than others. Some people can drink and they know when to say “enough” while others cannot take even one sip or they will wind up face down in the gutter. Hamilton is the latter.
Had he not been in the car accident, would he ever have known he was like that? Or was it bound to happen at some point and it was just a matter of when? We’ll never know.
One thing we do know is he lost probably five years of his career because he did not finally get to the Majors until 2007. If we assume he lost five 30 homer, 100 RBI seasons then that would be 150 home runs and 500 RBIs lost. Add those to what he has now which is 195 homers and 684 RBIs and he has some Hall of Fame numbers at this point.
He is 34 years old and his numbers would be somewhere near 350 homers and 1200 RBIs and likely close to 2000 hits.
Hamilton recovered from his addictions long enough to put up some really good years with the Texas Rangers from 2008-2012. With Texas he hit .330 with 32 RBIs in April 2008. He was named the MLB Player of the Month. He then went on to win A.L. Player of the Month again in May, becoming the first player to win the award in the first two months of the season. Tampa Bay fans were fuming. They could not help but wonder what if Hamilton had been on the Rays roster in their American League Pennant winning season.
While he was with Texas, he won the AL MVP in 2010 and led the Rangers to back to back American League Championships in 2010 and 2011. After the 2012 season, he signed a huge deal with the Los Angeles Angels for 125 million dollars.
There was one very painful incident in Texas. This one may be cruelest of all. Anyone who has ever watched a baseball game on TV or from the stands has seen players throw baseballs to fans as souvenirs. Most of the time they throw the balls to kids or to parents with kids with them. It’s just part of the game that nobody thinks twice about. But for Hamilton, this nice gesture turned tragic on July 7, 2011 when he tossed a ball to a firefighter named Shannon Stone so he could give it to his young son.
The throw was a little bit underthrown and Stone reached out to catch it. He then lost his balance, fell over the safety railing and landed on his head after a 20-foot fall. He died on the way to the hospital.
Would any of us want to live with that pain?
Then there was his tenure in Los Angeles. In his first year with the Angels he hit .250 with 21 home runs. Those are not 25 million per year numbers. Angels fans laid much of the blame for the team’s lackluster season at Hamilton’s feet.
2014 was even worse as he hit only 10 homers and had 44 RBIs. Despite his poor season the Angels did advance to the ALDS. Hamilton though went 0-13 in the series. Angels fans began to boo him at home.
Then in the offseason, Hamilton admitted to a drug relapse. This was used by the Angels to attempt to void his contract. An arbitrator ruled in Hamilton’s favor and that he could not be suspended. But the Angles owner did not want him back. He was then traded back to the Rangers for 2015.
So while Hamilton may have had some really great highlights in his career and has made a lot of money, he will be left to wonder what might have been when he hangs up his spikes. This was a guy who had Hall of Fame talent who will end up with good but not great numbers. And while he will always be loved in Dallas, he will always be reviled in Los Angeles.
Graphic via foxsports